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Hard Brexit will see us lose free movement rights

April 24, 2017 10:00 AM
By Chris Higman, British citizen and FDP local councillor in Schwalbach, close to Frankfurt am Main, Germany

A Visit to Galati (Hard Brexit will see us lose free movement rights)

A few weeks ago I visited Galati in Romania, where my grandmother was born. Galati, on

the Danube only just upstream of the delta area, is almost as far east as you can travel in the

European Union. From a public park in the city you can look across the border to Moldova

and the Ukraine. In my great-grandfather's time Galati was a growing and prosperous port

handling grain, manufactured goods and minerals for the whole Danube catchment area

north to Vienna. In the 1960s a major steelworks was built, which today suffers the fate of

the steel industry all over Europe. Of the original eight blast furnaces only one is in

operation. The number of active employees of the factory, now owned by ArcelorMittal, has

diminished in similar proportions. Nevertheless I found young people there optimistic and

investing in their future locally.

On arriving in Romania at Bucharest Airport, I was surprised to be greeted by a British

Government poster "Lose your passport - lose your holiday" with a picture of a British

passport, warning people to look after them. What the notice did not contain, was the

warning that these passports are about to be devalued. Holders currently have the right to

live, work and participate politically anywhere from the Algarve to Lapland, from Galati to

Donegal. The current British Government is pursuing a policy to restrict these rights of

British passport holders to the region between Lands End and John o' Groats.

But the British Government did not stop there with surprises. While in Galati I received an

email from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy asking for advice on

the specialized field of energy policy, which happens to be my own area of expertise as a

Consulting Engineer. This is not the first time I have received such requests from

government departments around the world and I generally try to be helpful on such matters.

But here was an organization actively pursuing a policy to take away my rights as a citizen of

the European Union wanting my advice. There was clearly a difficult decision to be made.

On the one hand developing a low-carbon energy policy everywhere is important to every

citizen of the globe (although Mrs. May would argue that global citizenship does not exist).

On the other hand the idea of doing anything to support the present Government is

anathema to me. In the end I decided that the most important thing was to get the message

through, particularly since I do not suppose that my advice would be so vital. I refused to

provide the advice (politely, I hope) pointing out the contradiction is the Government's

attitude. I suggested to the civil servant concerned that he draw this to the attention of his

superiors, pointing out that my lack of cooperation in this instance is a direct result of the

Government's decision to leave the EU.